This post is part of The Cost of Waiting, an ongoing examination of restraint and seclusion through media reports. You can view TASH’s comprehensive report by visiting https://tash.org/the-cost-of-waiting.
The family of a student in Virginia’s Prince William County filed a complaint against their son’s school with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging that seclusion and physical restraint were inflicted upon students even when they presented no apparent threat to the safety of school personnel, themselves or other students.
The complaint follows an incident in which school officials left a 13-year-old boy from Woodbridge alone in a small, empty room for nearly three hours. It wasn’t the first time seclusion had been used on the student, and the practice isn’t uncommon at PACE East, a school for students with disabilities.
The Washington Post covered the story, which also included a December 2011 incident in which a student refused to leave a bus. The student was then taken to a “quiet room” for nearly five hours, during which time the complaint says the student wet himself. The complaint also cites 115 cases of restraint, and 147 instances of seclusion at PACE East between September 2011 and March 2012. The conduct cited in school logs for the use of restraint and seclusion includes class disruption, profanity, refusing to follow directions, running away, and hitting and kicking staff.
Meanwhile, The Post reports that in nearby Loudoun County, no seclusion room exists, and only one case of seclusion occurred last school year. In Prince George’s County, seclusion is not used. The complaint against Prince William County calls for an overhaul of behavior interventions used at PACE East, and requests for more staff training for de-escalation techniques.
The Cost of Waiting
By covering the ongoing use of restraint and seclusion in schools, TASH hopes to elevate the national dialogue on these dangerous practices. TASH calls for federal legislation to protect all U.S. students from harmful and unnecessary techniques. The latest report of The Cost of Waiting can be found at https://tash.org/the-cost-of-waiting.
The U.S. Department of Education has issued 15 principles regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, limiting their use to emergency situations, and recognizing that restraint and seclusion should never be used a discipline or educational interventions.
A 2009 Government Accountability Office report that examined the scope and severity of restraint and seclusion found abusive practices were occurring in schools throughout the U.S. The GAO reported that no federal laws exist to restrict restraint and seclusion in schools, and that state laws vary widely if they exist at all.
Shouldn’t School Be Safe? is a TASH-issued parent’s guide on prevention, detection and response to restraint, seclusion and other aversive interventions. This free resource can be downloaded at https://tash.org/shouldnt-school-be-safe.
TASH is the founder of the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS). Learn more about APRAIS and find restraint and seclusion resources at https://tash.org/aprais.